On 3/31/2021, Nintendo fans across the globe declared that Mario is dead. Of course, this is a dramatized statement, but the reason gamers are making it is that Nintendo has pulled an odd move.
To celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary, Nintendo released the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection and an online battle royale-type game called Super Mario Bros. 35. The former game comprises three titles: Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Switch. It was a no-brainer to resurrect some of Mario’s most popular titles, especially the critically acclaimed Super Mario 64. So, no one expected Nintendo’s head-scratching decision: Their anniversary titles would be available until March 31st, 2021, and then pulled.
Immediately, fans wondered if Nintendo was taking the ‘Disney Vault’ approach. As we know it, Disney created the Disney Vault to recirculate old Disney animated films back onto the market for a limited amount of time. Capitalizing on the ever-present FOMO (fear of missing out), the purposely limited supply boosts demand, and then they return to the ‘vault’ for years.
Are they truly gone forever?
The only game that is truly gone forever is Super Mario Bros. 35, as Nintendo will shut down the online servers. Due to it being an online-only game, it really is a dead title.
Nintendo will pull Super Mario 3D All-Stars not just from their eShop, but from physical retailers. Starting today, retailers who sell the game will keep it on the shelves until they run out of stock. At that point, we can only imagine the numerous copies that will arrive on eBay in the coming months. If you already purchased 3D All-Stars, you will be able to re-download it at any time.
Lastly, Nintendo released the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch in November. It is a modern recreation of the Game & Watch handheld series. Sadly, Nintendo will stop manufacturing this unique piece of hardware starting April 1st. Don’t expect an April Fool’s joke to wipe all of this away.
Hopefully, Mario is Nintendo’s only foray into a ‘vault’ strategy
Losing access to a video game speaks against any form of game preservation. Fortunately, the games do exist in one form or another. What rubs gamers the wrong way is that we no longer have access to the bundled and enhanced compilation versions. I’d say this is an unprecedented move, but Sony fans would rightfully cry foul due to what just happened to a few legacy networks.
Now that we’ve experienced a celebration of a classic character’s anniversary, I wonder if Nintendo will keep pushing this strategy. While it was known the game would disappear from the get-go, Mario’s situation made us think of a few other characters. Imagine Nintendo releasing a remastered Metroid or Legend of Zelda bundle for their anniversaries? As heavily as we leaned into Mario’s 35th anniversary offerings, I can see the company going forward with more classic revitalizations.
Disney may have created the vault program, but they ended it when creating the Disney+ streaming service. That should make us feel better. Well, the video game industry fires off on different cylinders. That is to say that Microsoft has a streaming service to offer games old and new. Sony has a limited number of free titles to play, and their legacy networks are shutting down. Nintendo Switch Online offers classic titles through the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo (SNES) services.
We don’t know what Nintendo’s next move will be concerning limited-run games. If I had my way, it’s a practice they would scrap going forward.